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By Emil

... Reticulating 4-D Splines... Widening Horizons... EA Games has brought to us the somewhat greatly anticipated: SIMS 3. Is it actually a game? Despite much debate, the creators of the Sims series now label it as electronic toys as opposed to actual electronic games. That doesn't seem to be discouraging ardent Sims fans out there who are often missing for several days building houses, pursuing careers and expanding generations for simulated little people. And now these Sims are smarter more realistic and versatile than ever before... how can we resist?

So, a brief introduction to what it is I think is in order as the game's popularity is mostly in a small group of non-serious gamers. The game provides a neighbourhood, here people or 'Sims' created by the player have to live, perform day to day activities like sleeping, eating watching television, going to work to earn Simoleans etc. The game really has no objective except possibly to fulfil the Sims' lifelong goals. Now, we have the same game returning to us with Sims who are more versatile and intelligent than in the previous versions. Those familiar with Sims 2 may have many expectations of the game over and above its predecessor, but the important thing to remember is that having been just released the typical 7 or 8 expansion packs are still to come, so the non-existence of aliens, vampires and werewolves may still bother some people. All things considered however, the game is still not perfect.

The Good: Fans will be pleased to know that the load screens between places in the neighbourhood have been eliminated saving the player from having to mindlessly stare at their ceiling while the Sim is travelling to a new location. The Sim creator mode and style modes allow for the customization of just about everything in terms of colours and patterns, legnths and widths and squints. There are many interesting new features and skills like being able to catch fish, become a rockstar guitarist or a painter, plant gardens, collect butterflies etc. As well as that the Sims can now just walk, cycle or drive to shops, offices and community lots. Yes, it looks better, more human. And for those truly engrossed in the architecture provided by the game: diagonal walls are fully functional now.

For people like me who dream about writing books for a living, it is now possible to live that dream, albeit to a very useless end. You can work on the writing skills of your Sims and sell novels and biographies and articles and what not, becoming best sellers and earning royalties.

It's all fun and games until it starts to get boring and repetitive.

The Bad: The lack of load screens now leads to a unique problem which is that the whole neighbourhood is the save game as opposed to the house, which takes ages to save if you have low system credentials. The new features and doodads that the Sim creator provides are in many ways inferior to the Sims 2's separate Body Shop. The shop music and neighbourhood background score are still infernally annoying. The lack of thematic icons to represent things has made the game a little less intuitive than it used to be, and so sometimes causes the need to look at the tutorial menu. Overall the game play itself has some technical difficulties as well as an overly elaborated HUD. The two other issues that the game has are first that in one neighbourhood only one household may be controlled, and second, that the level of preposterous imagination in naming objects that we came to expect from these llama loving developers has taken a horrible blow.

The Judgement: The casual player will still find it entertaining and old players will have much to tinker with, literally. Overally it's a good game if you're the killing time sort of person, and though not necessarily a 'must play' it would do good to look into what this 'Sims' thing is all about.

Movie Review

It is very rare that a film adaptation outdoes the book it's based on, but such is the case with Notes on a Scandal. While which is better is completely subjective, the film adapted from Zoe Heller's book, with intense acting from two great actresses, can in no way be said to have lagged behind.

Judi Dench and Cate Blanchet have both played the fierce Queen Elizabeth I in their careers and here they are pitted against each other in an entertaining and jarring 'battle'. Two civilized, educated women break into uncivilized patterns of behavior and together slip into a downward spiral of decadence. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are both very powerful, not just because of the chemistry they share together but also because of their own boldness and depth.

Judi Dench plays the part of Barbara Covett, a cynical and bitter history teacher working at an inner city school. Cate Blanchett, playing Sheba Hart, is the new art teacher- fragile, naive, innocent and hopeful. But it's apparent throughout that there is more to the character. Barbara quickly establishes herself as a part of Sheba's life, becoming her confidante and friend. And then the plot thickens and assumes the intensity of a thriller as Sheba's life starts to fall apart, secretly incited by Barbara. The tension does not dissipate till the very end and the viewer is never quite sure where the plot is headed.

Patrick Marber's (of Closer) melodramatic screenplay cleverly makes use of Barbara's voice-overs as she scribbles in her diary and makes bitter observations about the world around her. Abundant voice-overs usually point toward shortcomings in a drama, but here they serve to enhance the dialog.

Dench manages to portray something other than the typical conventional black-dyed villain; she inspires pity, as does Blanchett, despite her character's promiscuousness with a fifteen-year old. The plot shows an angle people often choose to ignore about victimless crimes, where minors are often placed beyond all doubts and guilt.

Betrayal leading to hatred and a complete breakdown of all things sacred in human connections, the final showdown that had been built up from the start between the two actresses is the type of heart stopping, seizure inducing acting tour de force viewers dream about.

There's a sense of a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation of great actresses to the next, what with two great actresses from different generations being in one film. This will be entertaining to viewers who enjoy acting and character development more than just action and plot. Notes on a Scandal is entertaining and provocative; it's a recommendation for those willing to enjoy a psychologically complex roller coaster ride.

By The Anarchist Kitten

Album Review

The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw - Pelican

By Ahsan Sajid

The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, sophomore studio album from post-metal band Pelican has a lot of 'movement'. Movement in the metaphorical sense, portrayed by the band's great instrumental work, and movement in the literal sense in that they move from a heavy, murky, doom metal sound to a more structured, rhythmic and often even poppy direction. While many original fans frown at the infidelity, reviewers and critics see it as maturing.

As far as this reviewer's stance goes, he hasn't made up his mind yet. There are tremendous amounts of instrumental works out there in popular culture that we're familiar with and that a lot of us enjoy- Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Tortoise, Calexico, mum etc. just to name a few. And there are a few, even if not many, post avant garde metal like Isis and Neurosis at our disposal. But for some reason listening to The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw makes my mind wonder and imagine what the band would sound like if they had vocals. This is not a good thing at all; instrumental purists would crucify me, but honestly, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw with its movement has not moved me- and this is a sentiment echoed by various critics and reviewers.

However, ignoring that, the songs can prove to be highly enjoyable and deep. The album is, to use a very cliché term, epic. They don't have pretentious, verbose song titles as is common in most metal bands of such caliber. They do their talking through their music. Known to be an environmentally conscious band from their very inception, this album has nature-driven song titles like Last Day of Winter, Autumn into Summer, Sirius, Aurora Borealis etc. The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw paints images of Earth's explosive creation. The song titles don't conjure the images the music in them does, but they give a general outline of what to expect. In fact this album is quite antithetical to what one generally expects off metal, with its positive handling of a very real, worldly issue- the Earth and what's becoming of it.

Unlike their first, 2005's The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw is very clear and structured. But the atmosphere feels very heavy. To quote a certain fan of the album who introduced me to it, “You know how Slash would always play his solos in the middle of the desert or something during those Guns-n-Roses videos? Well, this deserves to be unleashed in such extreme conditions.”

The best song from the album is definitely Aurora Borealis, but it's a matter of taste. This album isn't recommended to impatient listeners. And it can arguably be called an acquired taste.


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